By almariam – Author’s Note: For the past two years, I have carefully monitored Al Jazeera news reporting and op-ed publications on Ethiopia.

In its news reporting, Al Jazeera has consistently given slanted attention to stories which create and promote the impression Ethiopia is an ethnic powder keg ready to blow up. Its government is weak and inept. Lawlessness is rampant throughout the land, and the world should expect to see the implosion of Ethiopia at any time. On the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Al Jazeera has been a megaphone for Egypt’s lies, fake news and disinformation.

In its op-ed pages, Al Jazeera has maintained open doors for individuals who are critical or condemnatory of the current government and Ethiopian politics in general. Individuals who paint a dark and pessimistic outlook on Ethiopia, consistent with Al Jazeera’s basic narrative, are given unfettered access to unload their venom. One would be hard pressed to find an oped piece in the the web pages of Al Jazeera that speaks well of Ethiopia, its government or the tectonic political transformation taking place in the country over the past two year.

Anyone can verify my assertions by googling Al Jazeera news and op-ed pieces on Ethiopia.

I understand why Al Jazeera would prefer not to present a balanced view on Ethiopia. They have their own agenda to systematically undermine, discredit and destabilize Ethiopia through their media.

That said and to be perfectly frank, I don’t give a rat’s ass about Al Jazeera and its yellow journalism.

However, I shall hold Al Jazeera  accountable by its declared “Editorial Standards” of professionalism and impartiality.

Indeed, I have a problem with the unexplained editorial decision to reject my op-ed piece after I proposed and was subsequently invited to submit one with noteworthy enthusiasm.

I first contacted Carla Bower, Senior Editor, Al Jazeera, Digital Innovation & Program Directorate, on July 6, 2020 to lodge a complaint about Al Jazeera’s blatant partiality to points of views that are critical of and patently hostile to Ethiopia and the Government of Ethiopia.

In her same day reply, Bower “thanked” me “so much for getting in touch” and indicated she “would love to see a draft, if you have one available.” She further told me “opinion pieces be around 800 to 1,000 words, but there is some flexibility.”

In the 15 days following my  submission, there was no follow up by Bower. I had to email Bower periodic reminders asking for a status update.

To my first follow up, Bower replied, “please bear with us – we’re currently reviewing pieces and will get back to you very soon.”

“Very soon” ended up being seven days and no word from Bower until I sent another follow up email.

To add insult to injury, Bower in her last email dismissively stated, “I thought one of my colleagues had been in touch” to let me know she was declining the op-ed piece.

Bower did not even have the courtesy to respond to me directly after she had sent me an enthusiastic email stating, “I would love to see a draft, if you have one available.”

Of course, Bower is manifestly disingenuous when she said she had assigned a colleague to inform me of her decision “to pass” (not accept the op-ed piece).

The amount of time  Bower would have taken to instruct a colleague and forward him/her my email to respond is much more than the time it would take for Bower to email me the seven word sentence she finally did, “Unfortunately, we’ll have to pass this time.”

It is obvious to me that Bower thought if she did not respond to my follow up emails, I would get frustrated and forget about the whole thing.

What is even more interesting is the fact that Bower gave no reason whatsoever why Al Jazeera declined my op-ed piece after specifically requesting a draft.

In my initial email, I set out my reasons why Al Jazeera should, consistent with its policy of impartiality and fairness, allow for competing perspectives and not be partial to those critical of the Ethiopian government.

In my experience, once a media outlet has requested to see a draft of an op-ed, a response to accept and reject is made within 24-48 hours, and often within hours. . Unsolicited submissions are often ignored or given a robotic response.

Suffice it to say that my op-ed disrupted Al Jazeera’s pity party for Ethiopia. My op-ed piece, fully documented, went against Al Jazeera’s narrative of doom and gloom for Ethiopia.

I am convinced if my op-ed piece had trashed Ethiopia, trash-talked the Ethiopian people and condemned the Ethiopian government, Al Jazeera would have published it in a N.Y. minute.

In the op-ed I sent to Al Jazeera (included below), I call out the names of those who have been arrested inciting violence, propagating hate and strife and repeatedly demonstrated in action they are hell bent on wreaking havoc in Ethiopia with ample evidence.

Of course, the names I called out in my op-ed draft are Al Jazeera’s darlings who have been previously given multiple opportunities to trash-talk Ethiopia.

I also named those who are doing their jobs preserving the rule of law and maintaining law and order and the substantial evidence they have assembled for a criminal prosecution.

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Al Jazeera can hate on Ethiopia, publish trash and interview trash-talkers on Ethiopia. But Al Jazeera should know in Ethiopia we don’t talk trash, we move it!

That said, I want to openly, publicly, shamelessly and gloatingly brag on Al Jazeera!!

Al Jazeera is the propaganda machine of the government of Qatar, an absolute monarchy.

Ethiopia is a republic and a flowering democracy.

Get a load of this Al Jazeera!

In the 2018 Press Freedom Index, Ethiopia was ranked 150/180. Qatar was ranked  125/180.

In the 2020 Press Freedom Index, Ethiopia was ranked 99/180 countries. Qatar was ranked 129/180.

In 2 years, Ethiopia moved up a breathtaking and stunning 51 positions. Such an improvement has never been recorded in Press Freedom Index history.

In 2 years, Qatar slid down 4 positions.

Any questions, Al Jazeera? I didn’t think so!

I am proud as peacock when I say, “Ethiopia has far greater press freedom than Qatar, home of Al Jazeera.”

I say, “Eat your heart out Al Jazeera!”, to substitute a phrase more appropriate for polite company.

Al Jazeera, please don’t hate Ethiopia because she is making giant strides towards multiparty democracy, institutionalizing the rule of law and rising like the sun over the African landscape!

Below the reader will find the following: 

1) Complete documentation on my recent email communications with the Carla Bower, Senior Editor of the Al Jazeera, Digital Innovation & Program Directorate regarding an op-ed piece I submitted. (The complete email communication is available in pdf format HERE.)

2) The draft op-ed piece I submitted to Al Jazeera.

In summary, following the assassination of Haachaalu Hundessa, the hugely popular Ethiopian singer and peerless defender of democracy, freedom and human rights, Al Jazeera made its resources available to opponents and critics of the Ethiopian government.

As a proud supporter of Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed and his government, I was disappointed and indignant over Al Jazeera’s manifest partiality to government critics. So, I wrote an email to Carla Bower, the Senior Editor of the Al Jazeera, Digital Innovation & Program. I stated with specificity my complaints about the lack of impartiality.

Here goes the rest of the story…

My email to Carla Bower dated July 6, 2020

Greetings Ms. Bower: I am writing to register my disappointment over Al Jazeera’s coverage of events in Ethiopia over the past several days and to inquire if you would be willing to consider an op-ed piece that will offer a balanced view.

On July 4, Al Jazeera broadcast an interview (see link below) with three individuals which offered a one-sided view of the situation. The Human Rights Watch representative castigated the Ethiopian government for alleged human rights abuses. The former U.S. ambassador determined the suspects arrested in the recent assassination of a well-known musical artists were “political prisoners” despite the fact that the suspects were caught in flagrante delicto. A university lecturer also condemned the government with blanket accusations without much challenge by the interviewer.

On July 5, Al Jazeera published an op-ed piece by the aforementioned lecturer. See link below. On July 6, on the Al Jazeera Stream (see link below), three individuals, including the aforementioned lecturer, were interviewed again, along with a known opponent of the Ethiopian government, and another person.

I fully respect Al Jazeera’s editorial decisions in its interviews. Presenting the views of a government opponent on three successive days on a major international media glaringly

questions Al Jazeera’s fairness and impartiality in its global journalistic efforts. I should like to believe the last few days are the exception to Al Jazeera’s subscription to universal journalistic principles of fairness and impartiality.

I would like to respectfully ask you to consider an op-ed submission from me on the current situation in Ethiopia to balance what has been put out by Al Jazeera over the past few days. I would be glad to submit a draft for your consideration if you are interested. Please let me know the op-ed word limit should you be favorably disposed to a submission-

For your information, I am an “Opinion Contributor” to The Hill and maintain a blog page on the Huffington Post. I have published op-ed pieces on different topics in various outlets.

If you inquire with Ethiopians in general or online, you will find out that I am, arguably, one of the most well-known Ethiopian human rights advocate. Since 2006, I have written widely read weekly commentaries, without missing a single week, on Ethiopian human rights and political issues. All of my commentaries are available at almariam.com

I am Emeritus Professor of Political Science at California State University, San Bernardino. I am also a lawyer in California with 30 years experience in criminal defense and civil litigation. I am also the chairman of the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund.

Best regards,

Alemayehu G. (Al) Mariam, M.A., Ph.D., J.D., ESQ

Links referenced above:

https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2020/07/ethiopia-bridge-ethnicdivide-200704195012799.html

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/haacaaluu-hundeessaa-towering-musicianoromo-icon-200705121750500.html

Carla Bower’s same day response to my July 6, 2020 email:

Thank you so much for getting in touch. I would love to see a draft, if you have one available.

We usually ask that opinion pieces be around 800 to 1,000 words, but there is some flexibility.

With thanks and warmest regards

Carla Bower

Senior Editor AJE Online Department

Digital Innovation & Prog. Directorate

Digital Division

My July 9, 2020 response to Carla Bower’s July 6, 2020 email:

Ms. Bower: Below please find my op-ed submission. It is 1,088 words, excluding my bio statement and references to video clip locations. Please note that the videos included in the hyperlinks are in the Amharic language and I have provided the time stamp for the relevant clip sections. Feel free to have the translation verified by anyone proficient in Amharic. I am not sure if it is your editorial policy to include hyperlinks in op-eds but if so the hyperlinks are provided for your editorial convenience to make verifications. Please let me know if you have any questions. I am available on my cell if you wish to talk to me…. Many thanks for letting me submit a draft for your consideration.

Best regards,

Al

This is the true and accurate copy of the op-ed piece I emailed Carla Bower on July 9, 2020.

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Road Bumps on Ethiopia’s Journey to Multiparty Democracy

 1088 words excluding bio and video clip designations.

Following the assassination of the popular Ethiopian singer activist Haachaalu Hundessa on June 29, 2020, some media pundits have been presaging deepening intercommunal political crises in the country. Others warned Ethiopia “will explode if it doesn’t move beyond ethnic-based politics.”

To paraphrase Mark Twain’s quip, “Ethiopia’s imminent political implosion and collapse into civil war are greatly exaggerated.”

The targeted assassination of singer activist Haachaalu was part of a putschist plot to swiftly seize power by overwhelming, paralyzing and overthrowing the government of PM Abiy Ahmed in mob army invasion during Haachaalu’s funeral in the capital.

As the saying goes, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” The plot fizzled but not without significant loss of life  and wanton destruction of property by misguided roving gangs seeking to effect ethnic cleansing. A grenade attack reportedly killed eight people in the capital.

Over three dozen suspects, including the self-styled leader of the Queeroo youth movement, Jawar Mohammed and his accomplice Bekele Gerba were immediately taken into custody.

Over the past two years, Mr. Mohammad had presented himself in public not so much as a political leader but a warlord. In a 2018 interview, Mr. Mohammad boldly and presciently declared, “There are two governments [in Ethiopia]… The government in power now and the Queeroo government. If I wanted to break off [secede] Oromia, I could do it… We had the capacity to put a ring [surround] around Addis Ababa and within 24 hours bring it under our control. If we wanted. If we wanted to do it now, nobody can prevent us. The people in government know this!”

It appears the killing of the singer activist was the fuse intended to blow up the communal powder keg and expedite seizure of power in 24 hours.

On July 3, 2020, Ethiopia’s federal police commissioner Endashaw Tassew reported [see clip 19:42-22:44] the putsch had been in planning for some time. He said the murder of was intended to spark communal violence and undermine public confidence in the government by creating the  impression the country is rudderless, with a divided political, military and security leadership.

On July 6, 2020, Adanech Abebe, the first woman Attorney General in Ethiopian history, in a press conference stated the plot involving Mr. Mohammad and Mr. Gerba was guided by the slogan, “We will begin the insurrection in Addis Ababa and we will finish it in Addis Ababa in June.” She said her office has gathered substantial evidence on the conspiracy on the suspects and their plans to create chaos in the country and seized weapons and communication equipment. PM Abiy’s office has released a detailed update on the current situation.

The murder of singer activist Haachaalu must be seen in perspective. In June 2018, an unsuccessful attempt to seize power was made by assassinating Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. In June 2019, another violent attempt to overthrow the government was made by killing top military and political leaders. In June 2020, Haachalu was assassinated for the same purpose. PM Abiy has fingered the leaders of the former regime that ruled Ethiopia for over a quarter of a century as the invisible hands in the plot.

In my view, the putschist made a move believing the government of PM Abiy to be weak due to internal and external pressures. Indeed, the killing of the singer activist took place on the very day Ethiopia was defending its right to build and operate the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the U.N. Security Council. They underestimated the resolve and determination of PM Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Laureate, whose mantra has been, “peace, reconciliation, dialogue and give-and-take” in setting Ethiopia on the pathway to democracy and prosperity. In his Nobel acceptance speech, P.M. Abiy explained his philosophy of Medemer as “a covenant of peace that seeks unity in our common humanity.”

Over the past two years, PM Abiy has undertaken substantial democratic reforms by opening the political space to the opposition maximizing freedom of speech and of the press. He has embraced the free market system and accelerated privatization of key state enterprises. He has released political prisoners and replaced oppressive laws.

Various international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch have criticized the government for heavy-handedness, and recently called for “lifting internet shutdown, avoiding force at protests and freeing unjustly held politicians.”

Over the past couple of years, PM Abiy has been criticized at home for not upholding the rule of law in the face of atrocities and criminality taking place in the country. It has been a Catch-22 situation for him. When he takes firm law enforcement action, he is criticized for heavy-handedness. When he does not, he is criticized for being a weakling and appeaser of outlaws. In its 2019 human rights report, the U.S. State department reported, “Under Prime Minister Abiy, there has been an increased focus on the rule of law.”

Ethiopia will not be another Rwanda. Those who criticize the Ethiopian government for taking action to enforce the law and preserve the country’s integrity and peace should heed the lessons of Rwanda.

Lawlessness, liberty and democracy cannot coexist. Human rights cannot be a fortress behind which criminals and terrorists can commit atrocities with impunity. Upholding the rule of law against the violent overthrow of constitutional government is neither a blow to freedom nor an abuse of power.

Paraphrasing the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, “The choice in Ethiopia today is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either.” To sit by idly is to become a party to a suicide pact.

Building multiparty democracy in a country that has suffered decades of dictatorial rule is not a bed of roses. There will be bumps on Ethiopia’s journey on the road to democracy.  Ultimately, building democracy is a labor of love and those who practice the politics of hate in Ethiopia will surely lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the people.

Abraham Lincoln said, “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” The idea that “power grows out of the barrel of the gun” is outmoded and has no place in Ethiopia. Power grows out of the ballot box, not the cartridge of bullets.

Nelson Mandela’s observation about South Africa is equally true of today’s Ethiopia. “It is not our diversity which divides us; it is not our ethnicity, or religion or culture that divides us. Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division amongst us: between those who cherish democracy and those who do not.”

==================

Bio: Alemayehu (Al) Mariam is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at California State University.

My follow up email to Carla Bower of July 11, 2020

Greetings Ms. Bower: Hope all is well with you. After I submitted my op-ed piece (see below), I was hoping to hear from you. I understand you are busy, but I would appreciate the favor of an acknowledgement or reply. Many thanks.
Regards,
Al

Carla Bower’s email reply dated July 13, 2020.  

Dear Al

Please bear with us – we’re currently reviewing pieces and will get back to you very soon.

With thanks and warmest regards

Carla Bower

Senior Editor AJE Online Department

Digital Innovation & Prog. Directorate

Digital Division

My reply to Carla Bower dated July 13, 2020.

It is good to hear from you Carla. Many thanks.

Best,

Al

My follow up email to Carla Bower dated July 18, 2020.

Hi Carla: Hope all is well with you. I am just following up on your email from Monday [July 13].

Thanks.

Best regards,

Al

Carla Bower’s reply dated July 21

Dear Al

I do apologise – I thought one of my colleagues had been in touch.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to pass this time.

With thanks and warmest regards

Carla Bower

Senior Editor AJE Online Department

Digital Innovation & Prog. Directorate

Digital Division

Postscript

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Special message to all Ethiopians:

Our enemies within and without an working day and night, and often in concert and chaoots, to promote conflict and strife and propagate lies, fake news and disinformation.

These vicious enemies without come garbed as “media”, “press”, “human rights organizations” and display other soft labels. Make no mistake, they are all wolves in sheep’s clothing. These  organizations are best described by one of our old sayings, “Their lips drip with butter but they carry a dagger in their hearts. አፉ ቂቤ ልቡ ጩቤ ።”

We must fight these enemies –expose their lies, fake news, fake facts, fake analysis and disinformation — online, in the blogosphere, in cyberspace, on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.

If need be, we must fight them in the courtroom, boardroom, classroom, press room and newsroom.

Let us never forget!

With our enemies within and without, we are engaged in a battle for hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people and to sway the court of world public opinion to understand our struggles with centuries-old political problems and stand with us as we pursue our aspirations for human dignity, prosperity and national integrity.

In this battle, we must be guided by one and only one principle: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Let us know our enemies and prepare ourselves to engage the enemy without wherever and whenever they strike.

The Ethiopian people UNITED will not be defeated by enemies within or without.

A luta continua! (The struggle continues!)

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